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Goodrich v. Goodrich

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

April 26, 2018

ELIZABETH E. IVEY GOODRICH
v.
JOHN EXERA GOODRICH, JR.

          Session February 6, 2018

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County No. MCCCCVDV112297 Jill Bartee Ayers, Judge

         As part of a divorce proceeding, the trial court ordered a father to pay child support. Within two months thereafter, the father lost his job as a finance manager for an automotive dealership. The father filed a motion to modify his child support obligation and took a job in another field, making significantly less money. The father claimed that a more lucrative job was not available to him because he only had a high school education. And he did not wish to pursue another job as an automotive dealership finance manager due to the long hours, pressure, and deleterious effect of the job on his health. The mother opposed the motion to modify, claiming that the father was voluntarily underemployed. The trial court agreed. On appeal, the father challenges only the court's determination that he was voluntarily underemployed. After a review of the record, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          B. Lynn Morton and Nick T. Tooley, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, John Exera Goodrich, Jr.

          Stacy A. Turner, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Elizabeth E. Ivey Goodrich.

          W. Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Richard H. Dinkins and Kenny W. Armstrong, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          W. NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE

         I.

         In the waning days of 2011, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Tennessee, awarded Elizabeth Goodrich ("Mother") and John Goodrich ("Father") a divorce. At the time of the divorce, the parties had four children who were still minors. The court approved an agreed permanent parenting plan that named Mother the children's primary residential parent and ordered Father to pay child support. The court calculated child support based upon Father earning a gross monthly income of $10, 000.

         On March 2, 2012, Father filed a motion to modify his child support obligation. Father alleged that "his income was drastically reduced in February, 2012 due to loss of employment, " which "was not anticipated at the time of the parties' divorce." The motion also alleged that Father was "trying to obtain new employment."

         The motion to modify child support did not come on for hearing until June 10, 2016. The reason for this delay is a matter of dispute. According to Father, he and Mother agreed that resolving the issue of child support could wait until the parties sold the marital residence. But the sale took longer than anticipated. On appeal, Mother asserted that Father simply failed to set his motion for a hearing. Undisputedly, after losing his job, Father unilaterally stopped paying the court-ordered amount of child support. When Father resumed paying child support, he paid less than one-half of the court-ordered amount.

         Only Father and Mother testified at the hearing. Their testimony established that Father worked in the automotive sales industry for over 20 years, starting at age 20 or 21. He began his career by selling cars, eventually working his way up to finance manager. Father held that position at various dealerships for 16 or 17 years. When the parties divorced, he was earning $10, 000 per month working for a large, local dealership.

         On February 13, 2012, the dealership terminated Father, who was then 43 years old. Records supplied by the dealership included a handwritten note that the termination was for "poor job performance." When asked about this, Father could not elaborate further but suggested that the stated rationale was only a pretext. Father described automotive sales as "a political business." And he ...


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